STEPHEN Flynn, the SNP leader in the Westminster parliament, asked one of his perceptive and characteristically short questions of Rishi Sunak yesterday.

He asked: "Is the Prime Minister worried that he is projected to be the first Conservative party leader to lose a general election to a fellow Thatcherite?"  There was some disruption in the House of Commons in response.

Flynn had obviously hit a nerve with the Tories, but just as much with Labour. Keir Starmer (below) was, no doubt, feeling quite smug after he had succeeded in bettering Sunak, yet again, at Prime Minister’s Questions, but then Flynn brought him right back down to earth with that very cleverly crafted comment.

The National:

The cleverness was not just in hitting two targets with one question. It came from the undeniable truth implicit in what Flynn said.

With his newly announced dedication to government spending cuts and fiscal austerity, which will inevitably mean there will be a further decline in the quality of public services, Starmer is now a full on Tory when it comes to economics.

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Like Thatcher, Starmer believes the state has no money of its own, and that a shrinking economy necessarily requires a shrinking state. That this is the economics of the madhouse that fuelled recession in the 1930s, and will do so gain now, seems not to matter a jot to Starmer.

His only priority is his "iron-clad fiscal plan" to balance the government’s books. If people must die or the planet burn to achieve that, so be it. He thinks making government expenditure equal tax revenue much more important that’s life or death now, or for generations to come in the future.

Such a person is dangerous. I do not use the word lightly. I use it seriously. It is what I think Starmer, backed by his shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves (below), to now be. If either knew the slightest thing about economics, they would know three things.

The National: Labour Party Conference 2021

The first is that when we are in the doldrums - meaning the "animal spirits" are depressed, as one great economist once put it - then the only known way to break the resulting downward cycle into which an economy can descend is to increase government spending.

It is by the government spending more than it reclaims in tax from the economy that the necessary stimulus to reverse the downward trend in the economic cycle happens. Starmer thinks, instead, that the country’s jubilation at his election will provide that stimulus and the private sector will lead us back to growth. That never happens. As a result, in reality Starmer is choosing to perpetuate the recession most already think we are in.

Second, what Starmer does not understand is that if we have inflation - and we have, and will continue to do so at the rate of two per cent or more - then the economy needs more money in it to function.

That’s a simple fact. If prices rise, we need more money to pay for things. And since the government is the most reliable creator of new money - which it injects into the economy by running government deficits - his refusal to do that means that the economy will run short of the money it needs, guaranteeing further recession, yet again.

Thirdly, if Starmer wants growth and better public services then he has to increase the rate of public investment. That is, quite literally, the only way to improve productivity in the UK as a whole, which he claims is one of his aims.

But the current Tory spending plans that are intended to deliver reduced public debt, which Starmer and Reeves say they also want, include significant cuts to public investment over the next five years. Put bluntly, that means more schools and hospitals will be falling down and there will be no funds to address the climate transition or anything else. That’s Starmer’s so-called plan.

Put those three things together and, as I say, Starmer is decidedly dangerous.

As a consequence, I was mightily relieved to note the recent opinion polling reported in The National that suggested that a Labour landslide in Scotland is very unlikely. It will be bad news if Scotland returns even the seven Labour MPs that poll predicted.

They might still contribute to the Labour majority that will be disastrous for public services in Scotland. I would prefer there were none at all.

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But here is more to this. Flynn might have proved he is the master of the parliamentary question. However, it is also now beholden on the SNP to promote economic policy based on deficit funding that could work.

The SNP are a serious - perhaps the most serious - voice of opposition in Westminster now. Rising to the challenge requires that they present coherent alternative economic policies not just for Scotland but the UK as a whole. It is by no means there yet. The SNP have no room to be smug in that case. It could stand out now on this issue. But will it?